Who the Heck is Tony Thurmond, and Why Should You Care?

EASTSIDER-Running for Superintendent of Education in November are Tony Thurmond and Marshall Tuck. We know all about Marshall Tuck, but few Angelenos know anything about Tony Thurmond, and that is not a good thing. 

The reason we Angelenos know not of Mr. Thurmond is that he is a Bay Area kind of guy. Born in Fort Ord with a Detroit military father and a Panamanian immigrant mother who became a teacher, he was mostly raised by his single mom in San Jose. 

As an ex social worker myself, I like the fact that he was a social worker, the real deal kind with a MSW (Masters in Social Work) degree, working for non-profit agencies who dealt with young people -- for example dealing with providing services to foster youth and job training for at-risk youth in the East Bay. That’s the real deal. 

Before he got into the Assembly, he paid his dues on the Richmond City Council, and worked as liaison with the West Contra Costa County USD. He got directly involved in education as a member of the West Contra Costa County School Board from 2008-12. For those who know anything about the Bay Area, these are not country club schools. They are a very good learning experience for something like the LAUSD. 

Anyhow, starting in 2014 Tony was elected to the California Assembly in AD15, where he has served two terms. Without being too effusive, Tony helped in the legislature to get funding for: 

- keeping kids in school and out of the criminal justice system; 

- helping fund foster kids being able to go to college; 

- getting increased funding for early education programs; 

- working to shift funding from the criminal justice system to early education and afterschool programs. 

And Then There’s Marshall Tuck 

Recognizing that Angelenos have short memory spans, let’s go all the way back to 2014, when he ran against Tom Torlakson for Superintendent of Public Instruction. At the time, as Schools Matter pointed out, he had a history of bigotry: 

“Many of us hoped that when right-wing business banker Marshall Tuck was ignominiously forced to step down as the "CEO" of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools (PLAS), that we might have heard the last of Tuck altogether. Tragically, the Eli Broad trained neoliberal operative was preparing for a run for California's Superintendent of Public Instruction seat. 

Well, flash forward to 2018 and not too much has changed. He has a very glitzy website, with a PR flack written piece of pablum called Our Plan

“The promise of a public education is that it provides to all children the opportunity to fulfill their potential. Unfortunately, California is not yet delivering on this promise. 

Marshall Tuck has worked in public education for fifteen years. Alongside parents and teachers he has helped turn around low-performing public schools and open new, high-quality schools in some of LA's poorest neighborhoods. 

Let's come together to give all of our children the schools they deserve” 

The reality, however, is the same old same old, and even with a new twist. As reported by the LA Progressive

“The privatizers’ ideal candidate for California State Superintendent, Marshall Tuck, recently suffered a serious blow to his credibility when he announced he was returning a contribution from a mysterious anti-gay zealot but keeping over $61,000 from a PAC. The situation revealed a campaign scrambling to maintain a narrative that appeals to California’s mostly progressive voters when the reality is much darker.” 

And finally, as noted by EdSource

“Tuck also has fought the California Teachers Association on workplace laws. As CEO of the semi-autonomous Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, he helped instigate a lawsuit in 2010 that challenged teacher layoffs in Los Angeles Unified based on seniority, which led to massive layoffs in several Partnership schools. Tuck argues seniority should be one factor, not the sole factor, in teacher layoffs. The CTA defends the current state law.” 

The Takeaway 

I am frankly worried that the lack of name recognition in Southern California will hurt Tony Thurmond, and that would be a shame. This is really a race between two totally different views of education: one view champions educating our kids wherever they live and no matter their economic/social class. That’s Tony Thurmond. 

The other vision is a semi-photogenic front from the billionaire boys club of Eli Broad and the like. If you think they actually give a rat’s ass about our children, particularly in the LAUSD, you don’t know how they got to be billionaires. Wanna bet their kids go to LAUSD or the equivalent? Oh sure. That’s who Marshall Tuck is, zillions of dollars in backing or not. 

We know two things for certain about the Charter School crowd. First, they’re all about siphoning money (ADA, or average daily attendance money to you and me) out of the publicly financed school system, leaving all the mandatory bureaucratic overhead of a school system to be funded out of what’s left after their take, as the School Boards try to educate the bulk of the children out of quickly dwindling funds. 

The second thing we know for sure is that the Charter School folks simply don’t care if a lot of the Charter schools are run by crooks and are subject to bankruptcy and/or indictments during the school year, leaving their students on the street with nowhere to go. 

If you don’t believe me, take the case here in LA of Ref Rodriguez, who had his seat on the LAUSD Board bought and paid for by the Charter School industry. Not only was he a total captive puppet for them, he and his own charter schools did not fare well. As we all know by now, he was indicted on multiple felonies, and even then, the Charter school crowd paid for his legal bills to keep him out of jail long enough to vote for that other Charter school front, Austin Beutner. The whole sleazy history was reported in a recent CityWatch article, which you can find here

Aside from serious character defects, Charter School Ref hung around long enough to cast the tie-breaking vote to hire Beutner to be the new LAUSD Superintendent -- even as the Board violated the Brown Act. I covered this tale of corruption recently, particularly the whopping violation of the open meetings law so that Ref could cast his tie-breaking vote before copping a plea to his multiple felonies. 

Lest you think that his has nothing to do with Marshall Tuck, I invite you to go look at the campaign contributions during Ref Rodriguez’s successful run for LAUSD District 5. Bright and shiny, there is a listing by someone named Marshall Tuck (listing himself as a ‘Consultant’) giving Ref a personal $1000 towards his campaign. Of course, now we get to watch him distance himself from the convicted felon who had to resign his Board seat. C’mon, everyone in LA knew that Ref was going down, including the Billionaires who brung him to the dance. Along with Marshal Tuck. 

So, that’s what is at stake, and that’s why this article. By the time you read this, mail ballots will be on their way to a lot of readers and we cannot simply leave this post in the hands of who can buy the most pretty ads. 

Please vote for Tony Thurmond for State Superintendent of Schools. This may be the most important race on the ballot for us and our children. And oh, by the way, Tony Thurmond is fluent in Spanish.


(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.